by Shobhan Bantwal
As an author, book clubs have always been my most valuable and gratifying resource. The ones that have read my books are scattered all across the US and Canada. More recently, foreign book clubs have also discovered my novels.
In my humble opinion, book club and library group discussions are livelier than other types of writer-reader interaction, more stimulating, especially if the members have already read one or more of my books. The questions they pose to me are so insightful that at times I am totally stunned at how deeply they have delved into my some of my stories and the characters' minds.
Best of all, book clubs are free advertising for budget-conscious authors like me. Once they latch on to an author's books, they create a healthy buzz.
I address book clubs in person, by invitation, if they are located within a 50-mile radius of my home. But many others, including from countries as far as South Africa, invite me to address them via Skype, which is a wonderful way to connect with them long-distance.
What kind of books do book clubs typically seek out? They want something unusual, stories they can sink their teeth into. I believe it is the unique ethnic Indian flavor of my books that appeal to them, what I call "Bollywood in a Book." Curious readers love learning about other cultures, their customs, languages, religious practices, cuisine, and clothing. I try to deliver all of the above, interwoven into dramatic, romantic stories.
Happy clubbers frequently recommend my books to friends and other clubs, which has even led to invitations to speak at large women's and non-profit organizations and fundraisers for women's causes. This is mainly because I cover hot-button women's issues in contemporary India, and readers are often deeply interested in controversial events in other cultures.
My advice to aspiring authors: book clubs are a priceless resource, so write something that will be of interest to them. Then go find them through your local libraries and bookstores, and contact them.
Remember, book clubs may not always translate into mega sales, but they are definitely goldmines for author branding and name recognition.